1 DAY & NIGHT (Billie Piper)
Presenting the start of Phase II of the career of Billie Piper. The child model turned singer made chart history in 1998 when the first two singles from her debut album topped the chart, making her the youngest female since Helen Shapiro to achieve that particular feat. Her age was also part of the problem as most of the promotion for her debut album was done while she was just 15 which meant marketing her on her obvious sexuality was a no-no. Hence she sang songs about teenage rebellion and adolescent angst and kept her clothes on at all times.
Two years on and things have changed somewhat. Now she is 17 and can appear on the covers of magazines with her knickers showing, can give interviews talking about her (now ex-) live-in boyfriend Richie-From-Five and can 'accidentally' expose her breasts during live performances. The world of Billie Piper as an adult has arrived. Despite the cynicism above this is actually a good thing. Whilst the charts have been invaded in recent months by a series of precociously talented American teenagers (Britney, Christina, Mandy etc.) it was easy to forget that the UK had its own young female with a maturity of talent that belied her tender years and the major promotional push that has been put behind the re-emerging Billie shows that certain people are keen to hammer the point home.
It is certainly no coincidence that Miss Piper's adult makeover seems to almost be aping the whole cult of Britney Spears, even down to this comeback single which sparks and bubbles with the same energy that is the trademark of most Cheiron Studios productions. So with a rather good pop single, a slew of interviews, TV appearances and scantily-clad magazine covers it is hardly a shock to see the finally released Day & Night crash to the top of the chart to give the UK its fifth new Number One single in as many weeks. It is Billie Piper's third in total (following in the footsteps of Because We Want To and Girlfriend, both of which were credited to just 'Billie' in 1998) and maintains her 100% strike rate of Top 3 hits. Furthermore at the tender age of 17 years 248 days she beats the record set recently by none other than Britney Spears to become the youngest female ever to notch up a trio of Number One hits.
2 DON'T CALL ME BABY (Madison Avenue)
Another short-lived Number One single bites the dust, on the subject of which I'll do a rant about next week, promise. For the moment it is worth reproducing one of the more interesting bits of correspondence I received this week. Aurelien Jehan wrote to say: "...you said that the sample track from Madison Avenue's "Don't Call Me Baby" was "undiscovered". Actually, it's been used already on another record. I must admit you may have never heard it since it was a French song, thus only released here (I guess). It was called "Quelle Aventure" and was sung by funk star Menelik (the one who recorded a song with Destiny's Child). the chorus went on like this "On a coutume de dire que la vie vie est dure, moi j'me bats pour le futur, quelle aventure". It was quite strong in France back in... ahem... I'd say 1998 or 1997."
The things you learn from email. The link is at the top of all these columns if ever you want to write to me, for whatever reason.
5 MASTERBLASTER 2000 (DJ Luck & MC Neat)
The world of two-step garage rears its head again and once more in the shape of an intriguing cover version. DJ Luck & MC Neat hit the charts just before Christmas with the catchy A Little Bit Of Luck which successfully rode out the storm of the festive season to climb to Number 9 in late January. Their chart return comes in the shape of this cover version of Stevie Wonder's 1980 Number 2 hit single which itself was partly inspired by Bob Marley's Jammin'. Stevie Wonder purists will be appalled, garage aficionados will think it is the best thing since Oxide & Neutrino whilst neutral observers will surely conclude that it is an interesting idea and at the very least a garage cover version which works rather better than Colour Girl's rendition of Can't Get Used To Losing You which made Number 31 back in March.
9 LUVSTRUCK (Southside Spinners)
Not Garage, not Trance... this long-awaited single release is purely and simply a slice of good old fashioned techno, a melange of frantic beats and electronic effects that all but defies you to sit on your hands and stand at the bar. Southside Spinners are Dutchmen Marco V and Benjamin and with this single are set to make the breakthrough from local sensations to internationally-renowned producers. Already big in just about any trendy club you care to name and nicely treading the line between 'retro' and 'dated' the Southside Spinners have ironically made the freshest sounding dance single the charts have seen for many weeks.
14 WALKING ON WATER (Madasun)
This is the second hit single for Madasun, the all-girl trio who are one of a number of such acts being sold on the basis of their musical ability and the quality of their performances rather than the way they actually look (see: Made In London). So far the jury is out as their singles have been competent and measured chart hits rather than out and out pop smashes. Their first single Don't You Worry made Number 14 back in March and spookily so does this second release. This may be seen as something of a disappointment as Walking On Water is certainly a much better track but thus far it seems that Madasun don't quite have the necessary magic to become anything more than chart also-rans.
15 IMPOSSIBLE (Charlatans)
No sensation here, just another solid chart performance from the Charlatans with the third single to be lifted from the Us And Only Us album. Their last hit was My Beautiful Friend which raised a few eyebrows back in December when it could only stagger to Number 31, their smallest hit single for over four years. The timing may have been a problem there as the single came out just a week before Christmas and so got rather lost in the mix. Conversely, the follow-up Impossible has been helped up the charts by its current use in the soundtrack of a series of commercials for Commercial General Union although as one of the better tracks on the album a strong chart performance may well have resulted anyway. Either way the single returns the band to the Top 20, in the process becoming their 11th such hit.
22 BLUE TOMORROW (Chelsea Football Club)
Funnily enough two annual events that can always be relied upon to produce at least one hit single have come round at the same time this year. The first of these is the FA Cup Final, the climax to the English football season. As is now traditional the two teams who have reached the final feel obliged to pile into the studio to record in barely musical terms an anthem to celebrate their participation in this year's showpiece event. Usually said football songs are released in the weeks leading up to the final but this year Chelsea have held theirs back to the week of the match itself, so as a result the single hits the chart with their fans still nursing the hangovers after celebrating their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley last Saturday. Following this logic, their last chart hit came in the wake of the cup final appearance in 1997 when they teamed up with Suggs to record Blue Day which reached Number 22 (spook!). There have been two other Chelsea FC official records, No One Can Stop Us Now (Number 23 in 1994 when they lost 4-0 to Manchester United) and Blue Is The Colour which made Number 5 in February 1972 and which had nothing to do with the FA Cup Final! Incidentally their opponents last Saturday, Aston Villa, have never had a chart record in their entire history although given that this was their first FA Cup Final since the 1950s this may not be completely surprising.
28 AMAZED (Lonestar)
...and up it goes again. Since it was released, Lonestar's Amazed has put in a chart performance that has defied all current trends. Charting at 24 when first released in March, it shifted up to Number 23 the following week before experiencing a reversal in fortunes and dropping for two weeks to eventually hit Number 36. Far from continuing to fall the single has had upward momentum ever since and over the last few weeks has climbed 36-32-30-28, the first single to climb three weeks in a row since DJ Luck & MC Neat's A Little Bit Of Luck managed a similar feat over the Christmas period. Although not quite on the same scale it calls to mind the 1998 chart run of LeAnn Rimes' How Do I Live which simply refused to go away after its initial chart impact and hung around the Top 40 for over 30 weeks.
29 THEME FROM GUTBUSTER (Bentley Rhythm Ace)
BRA were the pioneers of what in 1997 was jokingly termed Brum N' Bass... Formed by former Pop Will Eat Itself member Richard March, the duo set out to put the fun back into dance music with an eclectic range of samples and correspondingly whacked-out performances. Much talk they might have generated but it only ever translated into one hit single, even if it was a classic. Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out reached Number 17 in September 1997 and still sounds just as fresh today. After almost three years away they are back only to find everyone seems bored of the whole concept. Publications and reviewers who were once falling over themselves to praise them as the best thing since sliced bread have greeted this new single with an attitude approaching "is that really all you have to offer? *yawn*". Here's the truth, Theme From Gutbuster uses the same ideas as before and is still dance music that is designed to be appreciated for its style as much as it is to be danced to. In short there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, except that it now seems to be trendy to be rude about what their website calls "the most entertaining band in dance music."
33 IS THAT YOUR FINAL ANSWER (WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE) (Amore)
International readers may be unaware of this but the format of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is tightly controlled by British originators Celedor television, from the onscreen graphics, the design of the set and most importantly the incidental music used. No matter where in the world you watch the show it looks and sounds the same. Now the marketing machine that has sprung up around the TV phenomenon has spawned WWTBAM - the record. Very soon an entire album of the musical stings used in the show is to be released - so phone a friend! Leading this commercial charge is the release of this single, which was originally an unofficial underground smash but which was given the seal of approval by the producers of the programme. It turns the Millionaire music into a dance single, some mixes even replete with samples of the UK host Chris Tarrant reeling off the show's catchphrases such as "Is that your final answer?" and... well, I'm sure you know the rest. Believe it or not it actually works rather well, although this chart placing is somewhat at odds with the amount of hype that surrounded the existence of the track in the first place. So will the album be a hit? I'm going 50/50.
34 DON'T PLAY THAT SONG AGAIN (Nicki French)
So if the FA Cup Final was one hardy chart perennial, what is the other? Eurovision of course, to give it its correct title the Eurovision Song Contest, the Europe-wide telecast to decide which country has entered the best pop single as decided by the international TV audience. Now normally Britain does reasonably well in the contest [ah, those were the days], even if we have come second more times than we care to count but this year was something of an unmitigated disaster. The performance of Nicki French and Don't Play That Song Again could be charitably described as "shite" as the song finished 16th in the voting, easily our worst performance in the history of the event. The single was actually released the week before last in the run up to the competition but sold less than 1000 copies to enter the chart at an unofficial Number 89. This week after the exposure afforded by the television show it makes a flying leap to become an official chart entry at Number 34. Nicki French is of course best known for her 1995 cover version of Total Eclipse Of The Heart which made Number 5 and also became a sizeable American hit. This single becomes her first Top 40 record since but is unlikely to go down in history as Britain's greatest ever Eurovision smash, indeed it is the lowest-charting UK entry for a decade, charting even lower than Emma who only reached Number 33 with Give A Little Love Back To The World in 1990. If only we had entered Only The Women Know instead... that would have walked away with it. [Strangely enough the song that did win Eurovision that year would become a massive worldwide hit in a dance version three years later].
37 I (FRIDAY NIGHT) (Dubstar)
Presenting the return of a group who never quite seemed to live up to their potential. First sneaking into the charts in the dying days of Britpop in 1995 they seemed such a breath of fresh air. Like a collision between Saint Etienne and the Pet Shop Boys, the group combined melodic, wispy pop tunes with a lyrical cleverness which was often overlooked. Critically acclaimed, their chart positions never quite managed to break beyond mid-table, their biggest hit single being Stars which made Number 15 in 1996, one of just two Top 20 hits. This new single is the first Dubstar release since I Will Be Your Girlfriend in 1998 and although all the trademarks are in place it makes a rather underwhelming chart entry. If Dubstar are to ever kickstart their chart career, this certainly isn't the single to do it.